I know the empathy borne of despair; I know the fluidity of thought, the expansive, even beautiful, mind that hypomania brings, and I know this is quicksilver and precious and often it’s poison. There has always existed a sort of psychic butcher who works the scales of transcendence, who weighs out the bloody cost of true art.
Cyclothymia is cycling between depressive symptoms and hypomania. It involves similar ups and downs as bipolar, but the depressive symptoms are usually dysthymia. Major depression and dysthymia can co-occur. One important difference is that hypomania doesn’t have a psychotic component as mania can have. It also lasts less time than mania, a few days compared to a week or longer.
A few symptoms:
- Engaging in risky behavior often done on impulse
- No need for sleep
- Increased energy
- Increased confidence
- Racing mind
- Starting too many projects
- Lowered inhibitions
- Easily distracted
There are lots of possible symptoms, and a person will not likely have all of them.
Like all things psychiatry, it is diagnosed through subjective criteria. If the doctor knows you and can observe you while you are in this state, that is probably the most accurate. Otherwise, the patient describes what happened, and at some point, the shrink will diagnose you if they think it is accurate. There is no objective test.
Drugs, either illicit or prescription, can cause it along with stress and lack of sleep. Most likely, they will not know what caused it unless it is drug-induced. It does typically start as a teen or young adult, like other severe psychiatric disorders.
I don’t know if I have this, but I will never get diagnosed with it because there is no possible scenario that will get me back into a shrinks office.
I upset my primary doctor because of this, I think. Last month I was averaging two hours of sleep a night, and oddly it was severely affecting me. I sent her a message asking for help. She said that insomnia is a symptom - true - and that we need to find the underlying cause. She is very thorough, competent, and not interested in simply treating symptoms long-term. She said the first step is to see if there is a mental component, and I should see someone in mental health.
I can be a very sarcastic and flippant person but not in serious matters. Maybe it was the lack of sleep and energy that overrode my usual boringness, but I told her the truth in very blunt but polite terms. I told her that I already went through cognitive behavior therapy for insomnia (CBT-I), and was told that I do not have insomnia. Their best guess was some psychosomatic issue that they were uninterested in exploring because I had already gone through the entire program before they decided that I do not have insomnia.
So, I told my doctor that since I do not have insomnia there can’t be an underlying cause. I also said, “under no circumstances will I ever set foot into MH again.”
I thanked her for her time and told her that I will try to figure it out. She did not respond.
Of all people, she should know exactly why I refuse to see them. She had to clean up their mistakes and treat me for quite a few serious side effects that psych meds caused.
Anyway, my best guess by going through the symptom list - which is all psychiatrists do, other than possibly observe the patient - is that I probably do have that. Actually, cyclothymia since dysthymia or a major depressive episode always follows.
This worries me a lot despite enjoying it.
How does this feel? Like the wind blowing through my mind and body. It is hard to explain, but it is a very nice feeling.
That is the main feature other than having lots of energy and my mind being clear for once. From what I remember from before getting constant depression 25 years ago, this is different than being normal. It gives me a sense of invulnerability and feeling very powerful.
My impulsive nature and I do have one - why are you laughing - gets amplified a bit. I do things like head out on an easy 20-mile bike ride and end up doubling that and taking on harder stretches of the trail, on a whim. That is not too dangerous, except that for any ride under 20 miles, I do not bring anything except my phone and headphones. The lack of water makes for a painful ride.
I wonder if my current spending spree I did while feeling hypomanic was not part of the symptoms. It was all things that I need, and nothing I bought was unreasonably expensive.
I bought that $300 pontoon fishing boat, plus a $50 portable air compressor and a $40 life jacket. I was thinking of it before my burst of energy. I know I wrote about how it will open up more fishing opportunities, and that is true. I am also excited that it will help keep me away from people. With the limited bank space around most lakes, I usually got stuck near other people fishing which was stressful for me.
I also bought a $250 cedar planter on legs for my garden, again something I had been planning. My sister showed me this particular one, and I bought it after reading a few reviews without additional thought.
The bike issue makes me think that I let bad impulses get to me. The first thing I bought was a $150 set of Bluetooth headphones built for cutting out the wind. On my long bike rides, my current headphones would die three hours into a four-to-five-hour ride. A bike ride that long might be a bigger clue that something is not right in my head.
If only it stopped there. A $40 biking backpack with a water bladder. That is very practical if I am going to ride for so long.
Those long bike rides are made worse by my terrible, slow, cheap Walmart bike, so I really needed a new bike. I researched and checked bike shops and was still lost since I don’t know the technical aspects of bikes made more complicated with severely damaged knees. So I talked to a saleslady, and she recommended a specific bike. I had some reservations. It was lighter than mine but not significantly so, and the tires were very wide and had large tread, and the wheels were smaller than a road bike. It was a gravel bike and a hideous orange color.
It is great on trails and unpaved roads but was stressful on my knees because of the weight and friction from the tires. I loved that it had disc brakes, but the Shimano Claris shifters and whatnot were underwhelming, especially given the retail price of the bike. It had 16 total gears but was bad at cross-chaining, and most of the gears were the same, and my knee needs lots of gears, depending on the steepness of the path I am taking and the mood of my knees. I took it on a few light 10 mile rides, and there is no way I could go on long rides with it even though I could with my cheap bike. It was a $950 bike on sale for $700, which made me try it. I am a sucker for a good sale.
I asked if I could exchange it for something else. She said yes, so I spent two days searching their inventory and finally found the perfect bike with good features to price ratio. It is $1400. I can afford it, but it is still stressful to spend that much on a bike. I am aware that that is not a high-end bike.
It has a carbon frame with hydraulic disk brakes, and the components are mixed a little. It is based on the much better Shimano Tiagra set that will hopefully have more useful gears out of the 20. I hope it will work out. I have not ridden it, they had to order it, and with luck, I will pick it up tomorrow. I am very excited to have a much lighter and faster bike.
The $700 bike cut 15 minutes off a 10-mile ride, so this bike should save significant time on all of my rides, which makes it that much more of a good investment. I can either ride just as long and go further with less stress on my knees or be finished earlier, giving me more time for other projects.
I put it on a 0% interest credit card. I have 12 months to pay it off, which makes it that much more affordable. I still won’t have to touch my savings, which is more of an emotional thing, than a strictly logical decision. All the other things, I bought on my spending spree was paid off from the stimulus check after collecting points for them on a different card. So this was hardly devastating financially. I do hate spending so much in such a short time. Especially when I could have forgone all of this and just get new flooring for my house. All of my spendings were logical and will help make my life a little better, and it is not like the flooring is in critically bad shape.
I also bought a GPS odometer and speedometer for it, so I don’t have to have any wires on the bike. That was $100. I have a cheap wired one on my Walmart bike. Not really for the speed indicator, but for a way to track my distance. It is probably the only part of my spending spree that isn’t all that necessary.
The last things I need are a quality helmet and bike lock.
I never worried about a $120 bike getting stolen, and I keep it in my garage. Halfway through long rides, I need to stretch a bit and rest by walking a little. I would leave my Walmart bike unattended without fear, but the thought of doing that with the new bike makes my hands sweat. So that will be at least $50 for a decent U-lock and cable. As long as it would take much longer to break into it then I will be away from it, it should be fine. I don’t think that there is a bike lock in existence that can not be picked in under 5 minutes by a professional or cut with the right tools.
Luckily, most bike thieves are nothing more than tweakers, so 5 minutes is more than enough deterrent. I found one light enough, it shouldn’t be too much of a hassle if I keep it in my backpack.
It is very out of character to not spend weeks or even months shopping for something so expensive. This was all over four days. I typically spend a lot of time researching and then waiting for a good price. It took me about six weeks to finally decide on a TV, it saved me over $200. I spent at least two months shopping for new couches, and that saved me about $1200. I ended up with much better than I thought I could get.
It is not like I went out and bought a new car - that would put me in a little bind right now - something I really want. I am waiting another year or two until I get savings built up, so I can get new flooring in my home.
Even when I am impulsive, I am cautious and reasonable.
That is pretty boring, but if some emergency came up, I could put up to $10,000 cash for it today without stressing my monthly bills. Given that barely half of Americans can come up with $500 in cash for an emergency, that is not bad for being on a fixed income from a disability. Still, I am worried sick that I spent too much. Especially on me, I hate buying myself things but immensely enjoy buying gifts for those I care about.
Many people with varying types of mania have gotten themselves in serious financial trouble and legal trouble. So I can not complain too much about a little overspending on things I really needed.
I do wonder if riding my bike is what triggered this round of extra energy. It started on a bike ride, and it has been rainy the past few days, and I have crashed somewhat. I am writing this in a post-hypomania depressed mood. I am not writing morose screeds, so the crash must not be that bad.
If it is hypomania, it is worrying.
This is progressing exactly like my seizure disorder. I had weird symptoms a few times over two years before I had my first grand mal. I had this hypomanic feeling two summers ago and nothing until recently. I also had my first seizure at a strange age. Absent brain damage, seizures typically start as a child, or when over 60. I had my first partial complex seizure at 25 and grand mal at 27. Depression can start at any age, and I think the seizures are what started it, but the psychosis showed up 4 years ago, and psychotic symptoms typically start around 18, give or take a few years, or after 60, absent brain damage.
It is very strange.
Hypomania can progress into mania like my complex seizures lead to grand mals. Given my severe depression and mild psychotic symptoms, it could lead to bipolar, which is terrifying.
In fact, many features of hypomania–such as outgoingness, increased energy, intensified sexuality, increased risk-taking, persuasiveness, self-confidence, and heightened productivity–have been linked with increased achievement and accomplishment.
Kay Redfield Jamison
Is hypomania a good or bad thing? I think that depends on how well one handles it. Someone normally impulsive or aggressive is probably not going to have a good time. The way it has been affecting me is mostly positive. I am so isolated and cautious by nature that being more aggressive just makes me seem more normal, probably. If it progresses to bipolar, there is nothing positive about that.
Having more energy is great, but it hurts when it vanishes. My inability to sleep doesn’t vanish with hypomania, but it makes it easier to deal with.
This essay is not very interesting and rambles a lot. If I notice any interesting patterns, I may revisit them in a future article.